Rangers have to find a way to jump start

Ryan Callahan celebrates a second period goal against Ryan Callahan celebrates a second period goal against the New Jersey Devils in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals. (May 23, 2012) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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Arthur Staple Arthur Staple

Staple, with Newsday since 1997, has covered high school sports, hockey and football. ...

Call it good fortune, call it "puck luck," as John Tortorella did. Call it what you like.

The Devils earned their breaks at the start of last night's Game 5, and they made the most of their very few chances to counterpunch over a final 40-plus minutes that was controlled by the Rangers.

But -- and this is a key -- the Rangers only found that extra boost after they were down 3-0 just 9:49 into the pivotal game. They only found that well of desperation after they were down three goals, no matter how they ended up in the net.

That can't happen again.

They said after their rally brought them even and then came up short that this was the best game they had played in a series that's now 3-2 in favor of New Jersey and is now in the hands of the Devils as Game 6 looms tomorrow night in Newark.

Just as the Rangers didn't play complete games in their 3-0 wins in Games 1 and 3, taking solace in doing "so many good things," as Henrik Lundqvist said, is no solace at all.

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This was a game the Rangers had to start strong and stay strong throughout. They had to bring the fire and desperation and boiling blood from the time John Amirante finished The Star-Spangled Banner, with all 18,200 at the Garden waving their white hankies and screaming full volume.

Instead, the building was library quiet by the 9:49 mark. Yes, the Devils got some bounces, the second goal pinballing off three skates before skittering behind Lundqvist.

Yes, the Rangers gathered themselves and dictated play from just after Travis Zajac's goal that made it 3-0, all the way until Marty Brodeur's misplay gave the Rangers a tie 17 seconds into the third and even beyond, when the Rangers kept hunting for the go-ahead score.

But no, it doesn't matter how they played, just as it didn't matter how the Rangers played to get a 2-1 series lead on Saturday that seems a lot longer ago than that.

Even as they commended themselves for finally hemming the Devils in on the forecheck and for finally getting Brodeur antsy in goal at times, the Rangers do seem to know that carry-over and momentum have been nonexistent since they started this grueling journey against the Senators six weeks ago.

"We don't need to say, 'Oh, we did some good things, it's a moral victory,' to kind of give ourselves confidence," Brian Boyle said. "We have confidence as a group."

The Rangers' confidence has been a fallback position this postseason, only coming out when pushed, even to the brink, as happened in the Senators series, when Ottawa plugged up the Rangers in Game 5 and the Rangers nicked off with Game 6 on the road and then Game 7, both by a goal.

They will have to do that again, win two straight games in a series for the first time since those two. The Rangers all say they have the confidence, and Tortorella has it as well.

"I have tremendous confidence in how we'll react to this," Tortorella said.

Reactions are what this team has been about. For their last stand to get to a third straight Game 7 and a Stanley Cup final, they will have to be about more than reactions.

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It's actions that count now. If the Rangers can't be the aggressors from the start tomorrow night, then all this work, these 101 games since early October, will not have been enough.

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